Photo: Marta Kierkus.
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Theatre dept. kicks off season with 1930s adaptation of Shakespearean classic

Although William Shakespeare’s name may bring back some painful memories of reading 400-year-old plays in high school, his influence on modern theatre and literature is undeniable. The University of Ottawa’s department of theatre showed off this influence in its first show of the year, with a fresh take on Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.

The lesser-known Shakespearean comedy was chosen in honour of the 400th anniversary of his death marked in April 2016.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is set entirely in a park outside of the King of Navarre’s courtyard, where the main characters make their entrance. The plot surrounds the King of Navarre, a studious man, and three of his lords, who swear an oath to abstain from women and dedicate the next three years of their lives to education.

They take this oath at an inopportune moment though, as the princess of France makes an unexpected arrival, which sets about a whirlwind of events that leave the King and his lords lovesick. Directed by Catriona Leger, the U of O adaptation offers a nostalgic early 20th century vibe to the classical play with the content staying the same, but with 1930s-style costume and set design.

The costume, set design, blocking and script were all impeccably done to revive Shakespeare’s writing with a new era, while keeping its integrity. The romantic comedy is witty, in true Shakesperean manner, but also features a lot of physical comedy to help the audience fully understand the complicated language.

Curtis Gough and Jon Dickey, who played the King and one of the lords, respectively, are both fourth-year theatre students at the U of O.

Dickey, who had never read the play until this production, said that it wasn’t too intimidating to perform since it‘s not one of Shakespeare’s more famous works. He believes that not having read it beforehand helped him tune into the character and offer it his own interpretation.

“You go into it fresh, you’re creating, and not basing your creation off of something someone has already done. You can give your own organic take on it,” said Dickey.

Gough believes that it’s important to find and maintain a balance between staying true to the writing and giving it a new meaning.

“It’s easy and dangerous to dumb it down but there’s a reason why (Shakespeare) wrote what he wrote. We have to cherish his work but not hold it so high above us that we can’t support it and show it,” said Gough.

One of the best things about this adaptation of the play, and of Shakespeare’s writing in general, is that despite its antiquity it remains fresh in the eye of the beholder. Shakespeare’s writing still seems as relevant today as it was in the 1600s because of Shakespeare’s ability to understand the core of people’s nature and depict it in his complex characterizations, said Gough.

“I think his plays are so accurate on their depictions of how people are and how people deal with love especially,” he said.

“There is something about love that is so difficult to grasp and to understand and to control, because people are so different and no matter how much smarter and how much more sophisticated humans become, we still have a knack to be illogical.”

The U of O theatre department’s update on the classic featured outstanding performances from the entire cast. Despite the dated jokes and the classical language, the U of O theatre department’s rendition of Love’s Labour’s Lost is a truly whimsical rendition of love at its best and worst.


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper